A 22-0 run in the second half led the Eastern Michigan Eagles (12-14, 6-7 MAC) to a win 76-69 over the Toledo Rockets (20-6, 8-5) Tuesday night at the Convocation Center.
The Eagles’ big three finished the game with double-digit point totals. Redshirt senior Elijah Minnie led all scorers with 23 points and nine rebounds.
“We have a lot of fight in this team,” Minnie said. “Every game is a must win.”
The first half was a close one for both teams. Eastern Michigan held the advantage in 3-point percentage, making 3 of 9 attempts. Toledo made only three of its 12 attempts. However, overall shooting from the floor remained tight. Toledo held a slight advantage in the first half, making 44.4 percent, but the Eagles weren’t far behind. The team made 10 of 23 attempts for 43.4 percent.
The first half was full of turnovers and fouls for both teams. EMU had seven personal fouls, and the Rockets had six. Both teams had trouble taking care of the ball. The Rockets had eight turnovers, while the Eagles had seven. However, both teams were able to capitalize off those turnovers. Eastern Michigan put up seven points off turnovers, and Toledo had six points off turnovers.
The Rockets crashed the glass all half with a total of 20 rebounds. The team also did a good job scoring inside with 16 points in the paint. For the Eagles, Jackson led the way in scoring in the first half with eight points. His first half total was tied with Toledo’s scoring leader, Willie Jackson. Despite close numbers, Toledo was able to close the half with a four-point lead at 31-27.
At the 11-minute mark in the second half, the Eagles were down 53-41, making it the largest deficit of the game. However, after a 30-second timeout called by Head Coach Rob Murphy and a 3-pointer by Jackson afterward, EMU began to cut into the deficit. Those two crucial moments sparked the beginning of a 22-0 run for the Eagles.
“Really good victory for our basketball team tonight,” Murphy said. “We came off a tough loss at Kent State where we thought we were in control of the game and we didn’t finish well. We knew Toledo would be tough coming in. One of the best shooting teams in the country. We got down because we didn’t make really good offensive decisions. I told the guys I couldn’t save them any longer. We’re going to have to play with desire and passion.”
The Eagles held a wide advantage from deep, shooting 47.1 percent while the Rockets shot 37.9 percent. The Rockets didn’t do well protecting the paint. EMU scored 18 points in the paint during the second half. EMU’s defense in the second half forced Toledo to turn the ball over eight times.
“For us to be able to lock up and get three straight stops at one period of time, that was the most impressive thing for us,” Jackson said. “It was a big win for us.”
Redshirt senior Paul Jackson scored 19 points along with five assists and five steals. Senior James Thompson IV shot 66.7 percent from the floor, giving him a total of 14 points. Sophomore Marreon Jackson led the Rockets with 14 points, shooting 50 percent with six assists.
EMU will host Western Michigan University (8-18, 2-11) at 2 p.m. this Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Convocation Center.